Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

As a human rights reporter, you will have a greater impact on your audience if you use sound methodologies for collecting information. To ensure that your investigation is taken seriously, follow these simple guidelines:

Be Objective

Report on what you see, hear and/or read. You want to avoid letting your opinions, emotions and personal prejudices affect your reporting. To ensure objectivity, present all perspectives and angles of the given situation. For example, report the claims of both the accuser and the accused. Before confirming an incident, corroborate the story with three different sources.

Be Impartial

When collecting information, do not omit someone’s statement simply because you disagree with it. Follow all leads even if you are skeptical about the veracity of the information. Seek out sources that represent all parties involved in an incident. If you produce a statement, make sure the evidence you have collected supports your statement.

Most importantly, when collecting statements from individuals involved in an incident, try not to judge the information you collect based on your personal opinions. Instead, provide an assessment of each party’s personal or political motives. While it is not your job to judge whether someone is right, wrong, telling the truth, or lying, it is important that you provide contextual information on each source’s background, affiliations, and potential biases.

Be Accurate

Use a clear, organized methodology to collect information. To avoid inaccuracies or the appearance of bias, collect and document evidence about each incident using the same methodology. When interviewing victims or witnesses, document exactly what they say, rather than interpreting their words or statements. If you interpret their words, you may inadvertently change their meaning.

Finally, make sure you are giving an accurate depiction of the situation or incident using credible evidence.